Thursday 30 May 2013

Review: XP8 - 'Adrenochrome'


For the past ten years electro duo XP8 have forged a name for themselves on the back of an innovative and beat-driven sound that has seen albums such as 'The Art Of Revenge' and 'Drop The Mask' earn them both critical and fan acclaim. However, XP8's fifth studio album 'Adrenochrome', is perhaps their most ambitious to date. Funded by an already successful crowd-sourcing campaign, the album doubles as the soundtrack to a cyberpunk novel of the same name that was originally penned by Marko Resurreccion in the late 90s. Some may recoil at the thought of such conceptual ambitions, but XP8 being the band they are makes it all look so easy.

The album mirrors the novel with each song named after a chapter in the book. But unlike a lot of “soundtracks” this isn’t an excuse to wallow in bland experimental ambience. What XP8 have created instead is a cyberpunk album for the cyberpunk vision of London expressed the novel 'Adrenochrome'. The story-arc is fast-paced and gripping, and so is the music.

As you'd come to expect from XP8, each track has the potential to be a club hit for the band with their trademark strong dance beats and catchy melodies very much intact. What differs is that concept ties everything together and the way the songs join to each other reflects the twists and turns expressed in the novel. But it's real strength is that when you take the novel out of the equation, the album still works as a stand-alone entity.

Songs like 'Awakening', 'Getaway', 'Information', 'Beyond The Looking Glass' and 'Showdown' provide the backbone of the album mixing techno, hard ebm and trance to create some utterly compelling dance music. While other tracks such as 'Going Underground', 'Hostages' and 'Inside Their Heads' change the mood a little on the second half of the album with a more classic electro sound that features dominant clean vocals, which will work really well live.

'Adrenochrome' feels like XP8 have finally been let loose without constraint and as a result they have seriously upped their game in terms of production and song-writing. The album is intelligent, innovative and cohesively ties in with the atmosphere of the novel without denting its club-friendly credentials. It's a rewarding experience and one that perhaps even warrants dramatising or animating to cover all the media bases.

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